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Photo Courtesy of Bill Purcell Photography

Net-Zero Design Reshapes Senior Living

People rarely think of downsizing to any retirement facility as something that’s more. It’s almost always seen as less, whether that’s less space, less freedom, or less fulfillment.

Vassar Byrd is working to turn that thinking on its head with the redevelopment of Rose Villa, a 22-acre senior living community overlooking the Willamette River in Portland, OR.

The three-phase project started with a campus redevelopment that brought 75 new homes and a walkable environment, including a Main Street, green space, gardens, retail, and restaurants.

And with the recent addition of the Oaks at Rose Villa, Byrd, Rose Villa’s CEO, is cementing the idea that better options exist both for residents and for the environment.

What’s different, better?

The Oaks at Rose Villa is a 12-cottage pocket neighborhood that had its grand opening in February.

In developing the project, Byrd asked, “How do we rebuild our village with great infrastructure and modern amenities and reimagine it?”

She had a gut feeling about what “different” and “better” looked like. “For us, energy efficiency, health, and helping the environment were such important aspects,” she comments.

Given Portland residents’ deep concerns about and connections to the environment, she thought that incorporating green design principles would be natural.

Focus groups with locals confirmed her suspicions. “They totally got it and talked about feeling better and having healthier air,” says Byrd.

Lower costs, a lighter footprint

Byrd tapped Green Hammer Design, a Portland-based green design-build firm with a track record in designing buildings that adhere to standards like LEED®, Passive House, Net Zero Energy, and the Living Building ChallengeTM, to design the net-zero neighborhood.

“The idea that you could have such a light footprint and create as much energy as you use was a deeply resonant message,” says Byrd.

Features like a south-facing roof solar array, triple-pane windows, air-to-air mini-split heat pumps, and a heat recovery ventilator to supply continuous fresh filtered air, and native landscaping all helped Green Hammer to achieve its goals.

Thanks to the energy efficiency features, residents of the Oaks at Rose Villa pay 22% less in monthly utility costs than those living in similar homes elsewhere on the campus.

Modern residents, modern design

The architect took design cues from the surrounding community, creating the 1,200-sq.-ft. craftsman-style, two-bath cottages grouped around a courtyard, according to Erica Dunn, Green Hammer’s director of design.

“For us, it was really important that the architecture was in character with the neighborhood and community,” says Dunn.

And the design is a departure from what people associate with senior housing – no pastels, flowered wallpaper, or ornate furnishings. Instead, the cottages’ interiors are sleek, open, and modern, and they incorporate design principles that allow for aging in place.

Cultural, emotional considerations

Byrd also wanted to create a culture and environment that would mitigate some of the challenges of aging, including loneliness, that sense of disconnectedness, and some social woes – cliques, for example — that can develop when 500 people are stacked in a high-rise building.

Green Hammer’s design addresses some of those issues. Though there’s personal, private space, residents walk out their doors and can find people in the courtyard, for example.

And the design of the garages forces people to go outside and not scurry directly into their homes.

An abundance of pedestrian paths encourages people to get outside on a regular basis and walk to take care of their daily business, which creates greater vibrancy on the streets and provides more opportunities for residents to meet others, find friends, and feel a sense of community. That all helps to stave off the loneliness that can be so prevalent as people age.

Residents already have gotten together to organize biking, hiking and cross-country skiing clubs, discovered Byrd.

Going viral

The Oaks at Rose Villa’s approach is a concept that could have legs, believes Byrd. “Lots of people think a senior living community is a place where they may have to give up on the way they want to live. Here, they can continue to live their values,” she says.

She’s been getting the word out about the how-to of building a similar community, and she speaks at industry conferences about the Oaks concept, the process, and its marketing.

She thinks baby boomers and seniors also can change the landscape by demanding better aging-in-place options. After all, she points out that people in that generation were the ones to reshape everything from childbirth and the workplace, to the environment.

They can reshape retirement housing too.

Article written by Elyse Umlauf-Garneau

In many places, spring got a late start this year. So it’s no surprise if you’re just now getting outside to look around at what Mother Nature left behind and decide on what you need to do to tune up your home for summer.
Here are a dozen to-dos to make certain that your home is in top shape – healthy, attractive, and performing well.
1. First impressions. Take a hard look at the impression your front entrance makes, especially if your house is on the market. Look at places like Pinterest and HGTV for ideas on how to make a better first impression. Some examples include adding a pop of color by repainting your front door, changing door hardware, adding lights, installing window boxes, and ensuring that your steps and railings are sturdy and look fresh. Learn about the value of doing outdoor upgrades and the projects that bring the greatest joy and ROI.
2. Winter damage. Do an exterior walk-around and check for winter damage. For example, be certain gutters aren’t clogged with leaves and debris. Inspect your foundation for cracks and openings that could allow bugs and vermin to get inside. Check decks and porches for loose boards, rot, and unstable railings.
3. Clean air. Tune up your air conditioner to keep it working at ideal capacity and save energy.
4. Leaks. Check your faucets, toilet flapper, and valves and fix any leaks. According to the EPA, a leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year – the equivalent to 180 showers. Also, turn your shut-off valves on and off to be sure they don’t get frozen in place.
5. Keep cool air inside. Check your weather-stripping to be sure it’s not dried out or falling down. Though it’s thought of as a winter project, weather-stripping also helps you keep cool air in and hot air out during the summer.
6. Purge chemicals. Hunt through your garage, basement, and cabinets and round up all the toxic chemicals, paint strippers, weed killers, toxic cleaning products, and so forth. Find a local recycler.
7. Lawn alternatives. Letting go of the lawn eliminates the need for maintenance and mowing, which buys you more leisure time. By replacing a chemical hungry lawn with native plants, you can save water (and money spent on your water bill) and eliminate pesticides and fertilizers, which is better for your family’s health and the environment. Learn more here.
8. Plant trees. Strategically placed trees on your lot can provide shade that reduces your energy costs by up to 25%, according to U.S. Department of Energy’s computer modeling. Learn to pick, plan, and maintain trees here.
9. Compost. Build a compost center and to reduce your garbage output and create a free source of rich nutrients for your garden.
10. Harvest water. Reduce your water bill by installing a rain barrel to capture rainwater that can be used for watering plants and flowers. Buy rain barrels or take a DIY approach.
11.  Mold. Maintain your house in a way that prevents mold growth. According to the University of Georgia, mold sources include:
Plumbing pipe and fixture leaks
Roof leaks
Flooding
High humidity levels from:
        o clothes dryer that is not properly vented
        o non-working exhaust fans in kitchen and bathrooms
        o a large number of indoor houseplants
        o unvented kerosene or gas heaters
        o water collection in crawl spaces or basements
12.  Leave your shoes at the door. Look closely at the sidewalks you walk on. Do you want to track dust, pesticides, cigarette ash, and dog waste into your house and on the floors where pets and kids play? See the University of Arizona study to learn about the gross, unhealthy things that come inside on the bottoms of your shoes.
Article written by Elyse Umlauf-Garneau

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This is a great little chart to help both when buying or selling a Smart Home to ensure that everyone reaps the benefits. Sometimes information regarding the manuals or which items you have in the home can be lost in the complicated process of purchasing or selling a home. Easy to print or save to your computer. Thank you Florida Realtors for putting this together. Very much appreciated!

 

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Window sill of a house in rural

Now that the weather is beginning to warm up, it’s time to start thinking about ways to save on utility bills and energy costs before you’re shocked by your first big bill this summer. Luckily, there are many steps you can take to prepare your home (and your wallet) for the summer heat without sacrificing comfort. So, before you crank up the AC, take a look at our top ways to save on utility bills this summer. Your budget will thank you!

1. Get Your HVAC System Ready

Is there anything worse than a broken HVAC system in the summer? The good news is you can avoid this nightmare by taking precautions and getting your HVAC ready for summer. First, you’ll want to clean or change the air filters as dirty or clogged filters force your air conditioning system to work much harder, which in turn causes more wear and tear in the long-run. You’ll also want to inspect your outdoor unit for any visible signs of damage such as warped panels, torn insulation or rust. In the colder months, small animals may nest inside the insulation so you’ll want to inspect the inside as well. Taking these steps to ensure your AC unit is working efficiently will help keep your energy bills low this summer.

2. Clean Air Filters and Vents

Many homeowners make the mistake of closing off vents in rooms that are not being used, but closing vents causes more pressure in the ducts causing your air conditioner to work much harder. Before you turn the AC on this summer, open all the vents and give them a nice cleaning.

3. Keep Blinds Closed

Did you know that keeping your blinds closed during the day can drastically reduce the heat in your home? Keeping them open causes a greenhouse like effect—sunlight and heat pour in all day and can’t get out, making your home much warmer and causing your air conditioning to work over-time, which in turn will spike up your power bill.

4. Lower Your Utility Rates

Do you live in a deregulated energy region? If so, you have the power to choose your energy provider and can shop around for the lowest energy rates. If you haven’t researched your options in a while, summer is the perfect time to reevaluate your current energy provider and find out if there is a cheaper rate out there. Many deregulated energy providers offer special promotions in the summer, like “free nights,” so you should definitely check out what else is out there. To see if you live in a deregulated area, just enter your address here.

5. Time Your Thermostat

If you want to be cost conscious this summer, you shouldn’t blast your air conditioning at all hours of the day. A lower temperature setting at night and a higher setting during the day is recommended for optimal cost savings. If you’re forgetful or aren’t always around to change it, we recommend installing a programmable thermostat that allows you to schedule your temperature changes even when you aren’t home.

6. Switch to LED Bulbs

While incandescent light bulbs are cheap, they use more energy and produce quite a bit of heat compared to LED bulbs. LED bulbs tend to be a little more expensive than incandescent lights, but they last longer, produce less heat and create great energy savings in the long run. So, consider making the switch the LED lights, at least in the rooms you use most, to help lower your utility bills this summer.

7. Buy a Water Cistern

If you don’t know, a water cistern is a device that captures rain water and stores it for you to use to water your garden or lawn, to wash your car, etc. Your water bill can get out of hand in the summer as you spend more time outdoors, so a water cistern is a great investment if you want to keep your garden and lawn green all summer long without paying for extra water use.

8. Use Your Ceiling Fan

In the warmer months, you should run your ceiling fans counter-clockwise. Since heat rises, the counter-clockwise motion will help pull the cold air up toward the ceiling. Running your ceiling fan efficiently will help cool your rooms, allowing you to set your thermostat to a higher temperature, ultimately reducing your power bill.

9. Invest in Smart Power Strips

Connecting multiple appliances to a smart power strip that can be turned off with only one flip of a switch at night when the devices aren’t being used is a quick and easy way to help reduce energy waste. When you don’t have to unplug all your devices individually, saving energy suddenly becomes much easier!

10. Don’t Use an Irrigation Schedule

Irrigation schedules or timers that you can set to schedule when your garden or lawn will be watered sound nice in theory, but they actually produce quite a bit of water waste. You can’t control when it rains, and you may not be home to stop your irrigation system from going off when it does. Watering manually may seem like a chore, but when you think about all the money you can save from reducing water waste, manual watering becomes more appealing.

Don’t let the first utility bills of summer sneak up on you. Be proactive and implement our tips, we promise they’ll help you save big on your utility bills this summer!

Rob Caiello is the Vice President of Marketing over at Allconnect. Since 1998, Allconnect has simplified and expedited the purchase and setup of home utilities and services (like internet, TV, and electricity) for millions of movers relocating across the United States.

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These are some of the best “Smart Home” devices that may help to sell your home or increase the selling price of your home. Some may even help to lower the cost of your homeowner’s insurance. Worth checking out. Let me know what you think or which ones you’ve utilized.

 

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Energy-efficient upgrades not only shrink your utility bill, they can increase the value of your home.

http://www.floridarealtors.org/NewsAndEvents  Nov 2016

Homebuyers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of energy-efficient homes. In fact, they’re often willing to pay more for homes with “green” upgrades, says Sandra Adomatis, a specialist in green valuation with Adomatis Appraisal Service in Punta Gorda, Florida.

Just how much your home will increase in value depends on a number of factors, Adomatis says, like where you live, which upgrades you’ve made and how your home is marketed at sale time. The length of time to recoup the costs of green upgrades also depends on the energy costs in your area.

In 2014, upgraded homes in Los Angeles County saw a 6 percent increase in value, according to a study from Build It Green, a nonprofit based in Oakland, California, that works with home professionals. Upgraded homes in Washington, D.C., saw a 2 percent to 5 percent increase in 2015, according to a study Adomatis authored.

Consumer Reports suggests that upgrades like a gleaming new kitchen or a finished basement may give you more bang for your buck than energy-saving features. But if going green appeals more than adding quartz countertops, here’s where you can begin.

Find out how much energy your home uses

Getting a quick energy assessment or a more thorough energy audit can determine how much energy your home uses, as well as which upgrades would make the most sense for your home and finances. An audit may include an energy rating, a number that indicates how energy-efficient your home is and how much it will increase if you make recommended upgrades.

The Department of Energy (DOE) website lists ways to find assessors in your area. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program offers assessor and advisory services to help you determine what to upgrade. Your utility provider may also offer energy audits.

The cost varies depending on location and who’s providing the service. Your utility company may offer an assessment for free or at a discount. A full audit may run $300 to $500 depending on the complexity, according to Don Knapp, senior marketing manager with Build It Green. You may not want to foot the bill for a full audit unless you’re planning to take advantage of it with major upgrades.

Once you know where you can improve your energy use, begin by making the changes that are most affordable and have a quicker payoff, Adomatis advises. Then consider whether the costlier ones are worth the investment. Keep in mind that a variety of tax credits and financing options are available for energy-efficient improvements.

Common energy upgrades, from least expensive to most

1. Insulation. A 2016 Cost vs. Value report from Remodeling magazine found that the average attic air-seal and fiberglass insulation job costs $1,268, with an added value to the home at resale within a year of completion of $1,482. That amounts to a 116 percent return on investment. And according to Energy Star, homeowners can save $200 a year in heating and cooling costs by making air sealing and insulation improvements.

2. Appliances. Your appliances account for about 15 percent of your home’s energy consumption, the DOE says. Certified clothes dryers can save you $245 over the life of the machine, according to Energy Star. A certified dryer from General Electric can run from $649 to $1,399.

When upgrading, look at the kilowatt-hour usage of a new appliance and compare it to your current one — a good Energy Star rating doesn’t necessarily mean it will use less energy than your existing appliance, Adomatis says.

3. Heating and cooling systems. These systems account for about 43 percent of your energy bill, according to the DOE. Replacement costs for an entire HVAC system — heating, ventilation and air conditioning — vary widely depending on equipment brands and sizing, but may run several thousand dollars. Energy Star estimates that you can save 30 percent on cooling costs by replacing your central air conditioning unit if it’s more than 12 years old.

According to Energy Star, a certified heat pump water heater has a payback time of two years and can save a four-person home $3,400 over its lifetime. A 50-gallon Geospring hybrid electric water heater from General Electric costs $1,399, plus installation.

While addressing your home’s heating and cooling systems, bear in the mind that leaky duct systems can be the biggest wasters of energy in your home, according to Charley Cormany, executive director of Efficiency First California, a nonprofit trade organization that represents energy-efficient contractors. The cost of a professional duct test typically runs $325 to $350 in California, he says.

4. Windows. Replacing the windows in your home may cost $8,000 to $24,000, and it could take decades to pay off, according to Consumer Reports. You can recoup some of that in resale value and energy savings. Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report found that installing 10 vinyl replacement windows, at a cost of $14,725, can add $10,794 in resale value. Energy Star estimates that certified windows, doors and skylights can reduce your energy bill by up to 15 percent. If you’ve already tightened the shell of your home, installing a set of new windows may not be worth the cost. But the upgrade may be worth considering if you live in a colder climate.

5. Solar panels. EnergySage, a company offering an online marketplace for purchasing and installing solar panels, says the average cost of a solar panel system is $12,500. The payoff time and the amount you’ll save will vary depending on where you live. Estimated savings over a 20-year period in Philadelphia, for example, amount to $17,985, while it’s more than twice that amount in Seattle: $39,452, according to EnergySage.

Last: Let buyers know

When it comes time to sell, your real estate agent can help you market your home as energy efficient. Provide your agent with utility bills or your energy rating, if you received one with your audit, to include when describing the house on a multiple listing service, or MLS. There’s a growing trend in the real estate industry to make energy upgrades visible, Knapp says; energy disclosures are now a common practice in cities like Berkeley, California, and Chicago.

“If it’s reflected on the MLS, “it’s more likely to be reflected in the resale value,” Knapp said.

Bottom line: If you weigh the costs and savings carefully, going green can be worth the investment.

http://www.floridarealtors.org/NewsAndEvents  Nov 2016

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – 2016 – The runaway winner in the primary election was at the end of the ballot, as voters in Florida overwhelmingly approved a tax break to encourage businesses to go solar.

The amendment, which will become part of the Florida Constitution, exempts solar and other renewable energy devices on business and industrial property from property taxes for 20 years. The same tax break already exists for residential property owners.

The amendment also exempts renewable energy devices from Florida’s tangible personal property tax.

Amendment 4, the only ballot question in Tuesday’s primary, won more than 70 percent of the vote, according to early returns by the Florida Division of Elections.

Backers of Amendment 4 were all along the political spectrum, including the pro-environment Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Nature Conservancy and Florida Conservation Voters, and the business-backed Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Retail Federation and Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Business groups like tax relief, and environmental groups hope it will now encourage more talk in the conservative state Capitol about climate change and the need to cut dependency on fossil fuels.

“With all of this sunshine, why are we importing so much fossil fuel to power our state?” asked Pete Wilking of A1A Solar in Jacksonville.

“Stop sea levels from rising! Vote Yes on 4!” tweeted an advocacy group, Women4Solar.

The opposition was led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the TV and radio talk show host and president of the National Action Network (NAN), and Bishop Victor Curry of Miami, NAN’s southeast regional director, who said they opposed “unnecessary and unjust tax breaks for corporations.”

It was one of the most cost-effective referendum campaigns in Florida history, as supporters raised less than $150,000.

Lacking the money for a TV ad campaign, supporters built support networks on Facebook and Twitter (hashtag #Yeson4) to mobilize voters.

Voters said yes to solar, even if they did not always fully understand it.

The vote of the people was just one step, however. The Legislature, which put Amendment 4 on the ballot, must pass a bill in the next session in 2017 carrying out the will of the voters.

At the same time, a much more potent political battle over solar will play out on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

Known as Amendment 1, the ballot question is an effort by utility companies that would prohibit the sale of solar energy to individual customers and, critics say, would add new regulatory barriers to solar expansion in Florida.

Supporters, calling themselves Consumers for Smart Solar, have raised $19.1 million so far.

Florida Power & Light, Gulf Power, TECO Energy and Duke Energy are among Amendment 1’s biggest backers and environmental groups are working to defeat it.

Utilities prevailed on state lawmakers to put Amendment 4 on the primary ballot to avoid confusing voters about their higher priority, Amendment 1.

Susan Glickman of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said moving Amendment 4 to a low-turnout primary was a blessing in disguise, as it turned out.

“It’s a little bit easier because it’s a more informed electorate,” Glickman said.

Copyright © 2016 Miami Herald, Steve Bousquet. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. Miami Herald writer Alex Daugherty contributed to this report.

 

Florida Realtors has announced its support for Amendment 4, a measure on the Aug. 30 primary ballot that would extend a tax break for solar devices on homes to businesses and industrial facilities.

by Lloyd Dunkelberger  July 2016 http://saintpetersblog.com/florida-realtors-announce-support-amendment-extend-tax-break-solar-devices/

The amendment, sponsored by Sen Jeff Brandes and Rep. Ray Rodrigues in the 2016 session, would exempt solar units from both property taxes and tangible personal property taxes on commercial properties.

“It will encourage Florida’s business community to invest in solar, which will expand the use of clean energy and help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Matey Veissi, the Realtors president and  co-owner of Veissi & Associates in Miami.

“In turn, increased solar energy will help preserve our natural environment for future generations. As the Sunshine State, Florida should be in the forefront of solar choice for businesses and consumers,” Veissi said.

Dean Asher, a former Realtors president and candidate for Senate District 13, said passage of the amendment could expand employment opportunities in a solar industry that already employs 6,000 workers.

“If Amendment 4 passes, it could increase the number of jobs across the state as more business owners install solar panels at their properties,” he said. “Removing tax penalties and making solar and other renewable energy options more affordable in Florida will spark more interest in using solar energy – and that benefits both residents and business owners across Florida.”

If passed by 60 percent of the votes and then implemented by the Legislature, the tax incentives of the amendment will begin in 2018 and extend for 20 years.

A recent Florida Chamber of Commerce poll showed 64 percent of voters in favor of the measure, with 19 percent opposed and 17 percent undecided.

The Realtors, who have 155,000 members in Florida, join a large contingent of Amendment 4 supporters, including the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, the Solar Energy Industry Association, The Nature Conservancy and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

 

by Lloyd Dunkelberger  July 2016 http://saintpetersblog.com/florida-realtors-announce-support-amendment-extend-tax-break-solar-devices/

Annalisa Weller, Realtor®, Certified International Property Specialist

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